Home UK Map A-Z England Scotland Wales Articles Links About Us
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Google Bookmarks Share via e-mail Print

BERWICK TOWN DEFENCES, TD15 1NP

GETTING THERE

WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?

The well preserved Elizabethan Town Walls including multiple earth-topped arrowhead bastions. The Victorians added a pleasant wall walk. There is also an eighteenth century barracks (English Heritage) and a Magazine. Fragments of the medieval defenses are also visible as are later sveneteenth/eighteenth century upgrades. The partial, ruined remains of Berwick Castle are nearby.

VISIT OFFICIAL SITE (Opens in new window)

Castle is owned by English Heritage.

Berwick-upon-Tweed Defences. The medieval walls enclosed the whole town but not the castle. The later Elizabethan defences only protected the southern half of the Berwick although artillery positions were installed within the castle during the Tudor era. Seventeenth and eighteenth century modifications were made including construction of the large barracks near Windmill Bastion.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

1. The left arm of William Wallace was displayed at Berwick in 1305 after his execution at London.


2. Berwick has the dubious honour of being the first town in Britain to have cannon used against it during Edward III's siege of 1333.


3. The final Scottish Governor of Berwick Castle was Patrick Hepburn, Lord Hailes from Hailes Castle.


Notes:  Extensive car parking (much now free) found within and around the town. The detailed parking above is adjacent to Scot’s Gate.


POSTCODE

LAT/LONG

Berwick Castle

TD15 1NP

55.774068N 2.012334W

Scot’s Gate

TD15 1JS

55.770748N 2.007419W

Cumberland Bastion

N/A

55.772460N 2.004526W

Brass Bastion

N/A

55.773320N 2.000771W

Barracks (EH)

TD15 1DF

55.771485N 2.000185W

Windmill Bastion

N/A

55.770784N 1.997909W

King's Mount

TD15 1JA

55.767763N 1.998277W

Lord’s Mount

TD15 1LY

55.775360N 2.003641W

Bell Tower

TD15 1ND

55.775066N 2.005052W

Car Park (Town)

TD15 1JS

55.771607N 2.005958W

Lord’s Mount. Some remains of the medieval defences remain. The Lord’s Mount was a turret of the medieval town defences but was left outside of the area enclosed by the later Elizabethan defences.

Arrowhead Bastions. The Elizabethan town defences of Berwick-upon-Tweed saw one of the first uses of arrowhead bastions in Britain. A then state of the art system that ensured (protected) cannon fire could be brought to bear against the main curtain walls. Only two small castles on the Isle of Wight - Yarmouth and Sandown - can claim to have pre-dated the construction here.

Curtain Wall Artillery. Behind each arrowhead bastion was an enclosure such as the one above for artillery.

England > North East BERWICK-UPON-TWEED DEFENCES

Situated on the northern banks of the River Tweed, ownership of Berwick was hotly contested between England and Scotland with the town changing hands on multiple occasions. Inevitably this led to substantial defences to protect this once prosperous port including building state-of-the-art arrowhead bastions during the Elizabethan period.  

HISTORY OF BERWICK TOWN DEFENCES


Located on the northern shores of the River Tweed with a natural harbour, Berwick has long been disputed between English and Scottish rulers. Originally part of the Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Bernicia, it became part of Northumbria when Bernicia united with Deira. The combined territory stretched from the River Forth as far south as Yorkshire and in AD 867 was incorporated into the Danelaw. With the death of its last Danish ruler, Erik Bloodaxe in AD 954, Northumbria was incorporated into England then under the rule of King Eadred. However the young Kingdom of Scotland disputed ownership and eventually, after the Battle of Carham (1018), the territory was split along the banks of the River Tweed. Berwick, on the north side of the River, was ceded to Scotland at this time.


Around 1120 the town, along with Roxburgh, became one of the first two Royal boroughs in Scotland and Berwick Castle was established there no later than 1127. The town thrived and in 1175 was deemed a sufficient prize to be ceded to the English as part of the remuneration package associated with the Treaty of Falaise (1175). This agreement secured the release of King William the Lion of Scotland who had invaded England the proceeding year but had seen his campaign ended in disaster at the Second Battle of Alnwick when he was captured. English ownership was short-lived however - Henry II was succeeded by his son, Richard I, in 1189 who was solely interested in raising funds to secure his ambitions for a crusade to the Holy Land. In an agreement known as the Quitclaim of Canterbury, Berwick was sold back to the Scots for the sum of 10,000 marks.


Although the town was sacked by King John in 1216 as part of the First Barons War, Berwick was still owned by the Scots when Alexander III died in 1286. He left only a three year old grand-daughter, Margaret, as his heir but she died in 1290 leaving the throne vacant. A council of senior magnates - known as the Guardians of Scotland - sought to avoid Civil War and invited Edward I of England to arbitrate between the various claimants for the Scottish throne. Edward saw this as an opportunity to make Scotland his vassal, demanded that he was recognised as overlord and that all Royal castles, including Berwick-upon-Tweed, were handed over to his control. On 17 November 1292, within the Great Hall of Berwick Castle, Edward announced his decision in favour of John Balliol. But within a few years of John being anointed King of Scotland, he was in conflict with Edward. In attempting to assert his overlordship, the English King and left John little choice but to rebel. Accordingly the First War of Scottish Independence commenced in 1296 with English forces advancing into Scotland along the east coast. Berwick was directly in the initial line of assault and was captured and badly damaged by the attackers. Berwick Castle was the site chosen for thousands of Scottish nobles to pay homage to Edward I following their decisive defeat at the Battle of Dunbar (1296) whilst John Balliol himself was forced to abdicate. Berwick remained in English hands and both the castle and the town walls were significantly upgraded at this time.


In 1297 the Scottish rebelled under the leadership of William Wallace. He had initially success at the Battle of Stirling Bridge (1297) and the same year mounted an attack on Berwick. The town fell to his forces but the castle held out and when a Royal army arrived the following year, Wallace and his forces withdrew. The army, under the command of Edward I himself, pursued the Scots and defeated them at the Battle of Falkirk (1298).


In 1306 Robert the Bruce rebelled against Edward I and was crowned King of Scotland. The English King once again mustered his forces but the campaign petered out when he died whilst camped waiting to cross the Solway. His son lacked his father's military credentials allowing Robert to systematically reduce English garrisons in Scotland - by 1314 only Stirling and Berwick held out. After the crushing English defeat at the Battle of Bannockburn (1314), Robert took the war into the north of England. Attempts were made between 1315-18 to besiege the town and it eventually fell in April 1318 when the Governor betrayed the town to the Scots. Lacking provisions the castle surrendered six days later.


The First War of Scottish Independence formally came to an end with the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton in 1328. By this time Edward II and been overthrown and the Government of England, whilst nominally under Edward III, was being controlled by Roger Mortimer, Earl of March. He himself was deposed in 1330 and Edward looked north once more. In 1332 his opportunity to resume hostilities began when he covertly supported the claim of Edward Balliol, son of the former King John of Scotland, over and above David. Balliol was crowned but was he was deposed a few months later and fled to Carlisle. He requested support from Edward III and pledged to cede Berwick-upon-Tweed to the English King. Edward took up the challenge and besieged the town. An agreement was struck with Sir Alexander Seton, Scottish Governor of Berwick, that he would surrender if not relieved by 11 July 1333 and provided hostages as security of the offer. The Scottish meanwhile, under the command of Sir Archibald Douglas, had recruited a significant army and this prompted Seton to withdraw his offer; Edward was furious and started hanging the hostages at the rate of two per day. The Scottish army met Edward in battle on 19 July 1333 at Halidon Hill and were routed. Berwick fell to the English once more.


Although English interest had shifted to France and the Hundred Years War, the Second War of Scottish Independence rumbled on. A surprise Scottish attack captured Berwick in 1355 but, when faced with an advancing English army, withdrew the following year. In 1357 the war formally came to an end with the Treaty of Berwick but border disputes continued. The castle was captured by seven Scotsmen in 1377 but was stormed by English the same year. The town and castle were both attacked again in 1384 by Scottish raiders  who were eventually brought off for 2,000 marks.


In 1455 the Wars of the Roses commenced between rival factions in the English court. Following the defeat of the Lancastrian Henry VI at the Battle of Towton (1461), Queen Margaret of Anjou ceded Berwick to the Scots in return for support against the Yorkists. They duly took control but in 1482 the Yorkist Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III) re-took the town.


In 1502 the Treaty of Perpetual Peace between England and Scotland acknowledged English ownership of Berwick. Nevertheless, whilst no further attacks were made, in the subsequent decades vast spending was made on Berwick's defences. Between 1539-42 Henry VIII built an enhanced fortification to protect the town's North East corner (now Lord's Mount) but it was during the reign of Elizabeth I that the most dramatic modifications were made. In 1558, during the reign of Elizabeth's sister Mary, Calais had been lost to the French and the 'Auld Alliance' between that country and Scotland threatened Berwick. Mary had commissioned Sir Richard Lee to build a bastioned defensive line around the town - the work continued when Mary died in 1558 and was ongoing until 1569. These defences were significant and, with the exception of Yarmouth and Sandown Castles on the Isle of Wight, was the first use of arrowhead bastions in Britain. Earth backed, six metre high limestone walls were built and topped with a 5 metre high earth bank to absorb artillery impact. The arrowhead configuration allowed guns to be positioned behind the bastions that could fire along the length of the curtain walls. A ditch, originally partly flooded, surrounded the fortifications. Of note the Elizabethan defences did not enclose the whole town - the Medieval Castle, by then ruinous, and the northern half of the town were not protected by the new walls. Work stopped on the new bastions in 1569 leaving them only partially complete. By this time Mary, Queen of Scots was Elizabeth's prisoner and the threat to the northern town had hugely diminished. Further stability was brought with the Union of the Crowns in 1603 with Berwick being the point of entry into England of the new King James I.


During the Civil War Berwick was again occupied by the Scottish albeit this time with the consent of the English Parliament. In 1644 the Scots had entered the war on Parliament's side with their Covenanting army occupying the north of England. They were briefly dislodged in 1648 by Royalist forces but thereafter forces of the New Model Army occupied the town under the control of Colonel George Fenwick.


The next upgrades to Berwick's defences came as a result of the Jacboite threat. The overthrown of the Catholic James II (VII of Scotland) saw England's first purpose built barracks built in the town in 1721. By the nineteenth century though the town had been incorporated into the English county of Northumberland and the defences were reduced to ease access. In 1837 a pedestrian walk was built on top of the Elizabethan walls.

© Copyright 2016 | Terms and Conditions (inc Cookie Policy) | Contact Us